Skip to main content

Full text of "A Pocket Guide to Vietnam"

See other formats

IAVPERS 931 35 A 
>FP 1 90-4-3 
AVMC 2593A 



























Why is it often difficult to 
tell a Viet Cong from a loyal 
South Vietnamese? 

Is nuoc mam something to wear, 
something to eat, or the name of 
an organization? 

Why would a South Vietnamese be 
puzzled or offended if you used 
the American gesture for beckoning 
him to come to you? 






Who is Ho Chi Minh? 



For Personnel of U.S. Military 
Assistance Command, Vietnam 

The Vietnamese have paid a heavy price in suffering for their long 
fight against the Communists. We military men are in Vietnam now 
because their government has asked us to help its soldiers and people 
in winning their struggle. The Viet Cong will attempt to turn the 
Vietnamese people against you. You can defeat them at every turn 
by the strength, understanding, and generosity you display with 
the people. Here are the nine simple rules: 

“Remember we are special guests here; we make no demands 
and seek no special treatment. 

“Join with the people! Understand their life, use phrases from 
their language, and honor their customs and laws. 

“Treat women with politeness and respect. 

Make personal friends among the soldiers and common people. 

“Always give the Vietnamese the right of way. 

Be alert to security and ready to react with your military 

Don t attract attention by loud, rude, or unusual behavior. 

“Avoid separating yourself from the people by a display of 
wealth or privilege. 

“Above all else you are members of the U.S. military forces on 
a difficult mission, responsible for all your official and personal 
actions. Reflect honor upon yourself and the United States of 



*DoD PG-2IA 
*DA Pam 360-411 
*AFP 190-4-3 
♦NAVMC 2593A 



Opportunity to Serve 1 

The Country 2 

2,000 Years of History 9 

The Republic of Vietnam 14 

At Home with the Vietnamese 29 

The Mountain Tribespeople 61 

Getting Around 66 

Service with Satisfaction 72 

Appendix 73 

Suggested Reading 74 

Language Guide 77 

^Supersedes DoD PG-21/DA Pam 20-198/NAVPERS 93135/ AFP 190-4-3/ 
NAVMC 2593/6, December 1962. 

For Sale by Superintendent of Documents 


Variety of vehicles spices Saigon traffic . 

Farmers plant rice in Vietnam's lowlands 


If you are bound for Vietnam, it is for the deeply serious business 
of helping a brave nation repel Communist aggression. This is your 
official job and it is a vital one, not only for the preservation of free- 
dom in this one country but for the survival of freedom everywhere. 

Vietnam is a major testing ground for the Communists’ theories 
of “wars of national liberation,” and upon our success there depends 
peace in many other free countries of the world. 

The growing American commitment in Vietnam makes it even 
more important for us to maintain the good relations that exist be- 
tween Americans and the Vietnamese people. Wherever you go, 
remember that Vietnam is a land of dignity and reserve. Your good 
manners, thoughtfulness, and restrained behavior will be appreci- 
ated by the Vietnamese. You will benefit, as will the country you 
represent, in terms of the job you are there to do and in terms of 
friendship built on a solid foundation of mutual respect. 

You can learn a great deal from the Vietnamese, who have been 
fighting for their country for many years, and you will find, as have 


many other Americans, that you will become greatly attached to 
them as individuals and as a people. 


When you reach South Vietnam you will be in a land with a 
civilization that predates the birth of Christ but which, since 1954, 
has been divided like Korea. North of the 17th parallel and Ben 
Hai River lies Communist North Vietnam and south is the free 
Republic of Vietnam. 

The Republic of Vietnam is less than half the size of California 
and long and narrow like that State. It occupies the eastern and 
southern part of the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia, and 
borders the South China Sea and the Gulf of Siam. Near neighbors 
to the west are Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. Beyond Communist 
Vietnam to the north stretches the vast territory of Red China. 

The southern section of the rugged Annamite mountains forms a 
spine down to the Mekong Delta region around Saigon. In places, 
mountain spurs jut out to the sea, dividing the coastal plain into 
sections. Sand dunes 10 to 60 feet high are common along the long 

The country is narrow up near Hue (pronounced whey) — so nar- 
row that only a 30- to 50-mile strip lies between Laos and the South 
China Sea. Here the coastal rice fields very quickly give way to the 
uncultivated foothills of the mountains. In the past, lowland Viet- 
namese preferred to leave the mountains to tribespeople, wild ani- 
mals, and evil spirits. 


Southward from Hue toward the beach resort of Nha Trang, the 
country widens to make room for high plateaus, 1,000 to 3,000 feet 
above sea level. In the southern part of the country — around the 
Saigon-Cholon area — the many mouths of the Mekong River join a 
dense canal network to fan out across delta plains and nourish the 
fertile paddies of a bountiful “rice basket.” 

South Vietnam has a typically tropical climate of two seasons: 
hot and dry and hot and rainy. 

In the southern delta region, the rains usually begin in late May 
and continue through September. April and early May are the 
hottest and most humid months of the year. 

Along the central coast, the rainy season begins in October, 
causes periodic floods through November and December, and con- 
tinues with drizzles from January to March. July and August .are 
the months when heat and humidity reach their peak. In pleasant 
contrast, the highlands are usually cool at night regardless of the 

Like other tropical countries, Vietnam has the usual variety of 
bugs, flies, mosquitos, and other insects. It’s S.O.P. to sleep under 
a mosquito net. 

Rice in the Deltas 

This is an agricultural country with a soil-and-climate combina- 
tion ideal for growing rice. With U.S. help, the South Vietnamese 
have greatly increased their rice production since 1954. You will 
find the paddies mainly in the Mekong River Delta and lowland 
areas of central Vietnam. 


Farm family prepares tobacco for market 

Fisherman mends his giant net 

Muscle-powered sampans are typical of Mekong Delta 


Its abundant rice crop, locally-grown vegetables, and fish from 
the richly-stocked seas at its door make the country largely self- 
sustaining in food. 

A major export is rubber. Although the war ravaged the large 
rubber plantations and some of this acreage has not been reclaimed, 
rubber is still a very important product. 

Lacquer from Vietnam has always been highly prized on the for- 
eign market. It is used for mixing with other lacquers to improve 
their quality. The trees cultivated for extraction of lacquer are 
called cay son. Previously grown only in the north, the trees are 
being successfully experimented with in the southern highlands. 

Relatively new as commercial products are palm oil from the 
plant formerly regarded by the Vietnamese as ornamental rather 
than useful, and peanuts which had been grown for home consump- 
tion but now are being exported in quantity both whole and as oil. 

Tea, coffee, and quinine are grown in the high plateaus, which 
also produce cinnamon, timber, raw silk, vegetables, and vegetable 
dyes. Other Vietnamese products are com, sugar cane, copra, to- 
bacco, and mint oil. 

The country has some cattle but more pigs and poultry. Water 
buffalo are used primarily as draft animals, especially in the rice 
paddies, and only occasionally for meat. 

No scene is more typical of rural Vietnam than a farmer and his 
water buffalo at work in a rice paddy. Water buffaloes are the in- 
dispensable work animals of the country. 

Mineral resources are few: a coal-bearing region near the city of 
Da Nang (Tourane), south of Hue; a small gold mine, and scattered 
deposits of molybdenum and phosphate. 


Industry is steadily expanding, though its scope is limited at 
present. New enterprises such as textile mills, cement plants, elec- 
tronics, fish processing, and pharmaceuticals and plastics manufac- 
ture have been added to the traditional rice milling, lumber pro- 
duction, and manufacture of salt, beverages, soap, matches, and 

Many free-world nations besides the United States are contribut- 
ing economic assistance to help South Vietnam’s agriculture and 
industry grow. 

Picture the People 

The population of the Republic of Vietnam is about 15.5 million, 
four-fifths of them farmers. (North Vietnam has an estimated 17 
million people.) The majority of the people of South Vietnam are 
ethnic Vietnamese. There are almost 800,000 tribal people; close to 
one million Chinese (most of whom now hold Vietnamese citizen- 
ship); just under half a million ethnic Cambodians, and a few thou- 
sand each of French, Indians, and Pakistanis. 

Compared with most Asian nations, South Vietnam is uncrowded. 
The population density varies from 19 per square mile throughout 
the six high plateau provinces to 43,100 people per square mile in 
Saigon, the capital. Saigon-Cholon is the largest city, with about 
two million people. Da Nang runs a distant second with about 

The Vietnamese are small and well-proportioned people, with 
dark, almond-shaped eyes and black hair. The slender, small-boned 
women move gracefully in their national dress of long trousers under 
a long-sleeved tunic slit from hem to waist. 


Most non-laboring Vietnamese men wear Western clothing on 
the street, but you will occasionally see traditional Chinese Man- 
darin robes. Workmen and peasants dress in loose black trousers 
and short black or white jackets. Their black jackets and trousers 
are similar to the black “pajama” uniforms worn by some of the 
Viet Cong and some Government paramilitary personnel. 

Somewhat reserved and very polite, the Vietnamese are warm 
and friendly with people they like, and they are very cooperative 
and helpful. They have great respect for virtue and knowledge and 
honor older people. Many of their customs are conditioned by 
religious beliefs. 

In the urban areas, French and English are second languages. 
Children study one or the other in school and increasingly English 
is their choice. But when you leave the cities, you may encounter 
even telephone operators who speak only Vietnamese. 

A Dragon and a Goddess 

Vietnam has one of the world’s oldest living civilizations. It dates 
back to hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, with roots in 
Asian religions and philosophies. 

Legend has it that from the union of a dragon and a goddess 
came the hundred venerable ancestors of all Vietnamese. Belief in 
their common origin united the people and gave them a symbol 
around which to rally in the face of foreign invasion. Until 1955, the 
Vietnam coat-of-arms displayed a dragon carrying the country on 
its back. The coat-of-arms now features the bamboo plant. 





Ban Me Thuot 



0^^ Demarcation Line 

Quang Tr\ 

< Hui 

Da Nang 


Qui Nhon 


Nha T rang 

Phan Rang 

Can Tho Vung Tau (Cap St Jacques) 

Khanh Hung & 


The Viets originally occupied southern and southeastern China 
and the east coast of the Indochinese peninsula almost as far south 
as Hue, the old capital of Vietnam. In 111 B.C., their kingdom of 
Nam Viet was conquered by the Chinese, who controlled the country 
almost continuously for the next thousand years. 

At times the Viet rebelled — usually unsuccessfully. A revolt led 
by the Trung sisters in 43 A.D. drove out the Chinese for a time. 
But the Chinese were vanquished only temporarily. In a few years 
they came back and the Trung sisters committed suicide by throw- 
ing themselves into the river. 

The Viets made another courageous stand for survival as a free 
nation when, in 1284, they repulsed the Mongolian hordes of Kublai 
Khan. In the next century they pushed southward to conquer the 
once-great kingdom of Champa which occupied as much of what is 
now South Vietnam. They also met the Khmers (Cambodians) on 
the field of battle and forced them to retreat to their present bound- 

Champa never recovered from its defeat by the Viets in Vijaya 
in 1471, and it disappeared from history during the 1700’s. How- 
ever, about 25,000 Chams who have never been assimilated into 
Vietnamese life still cluster in their own villages near Phan Rang, 
about midway down the coast. They follow a way of life scarcely 
distinguishable from that of unadvanced tribespeople in the area, 
and speak only their native Cham language. 

Vietnam's Golden Age 

Under the Le dynasty founded in the 15th century, Vietnam 
enjoyed a period of brilliant progress. Arts, crafts, agriculture, and 


commerce flourished. The code of laws developed during this time 
remained in effect until almost modern times. 

The Le dynasty went through periods of strength and weakness. 
Two powerful families, the Trinh and the Nguyen, finally reduced 
the Le regime to puppet status and divided the country between 
themselves. The Trinh controlled the northern region, and the 
Nguyen controlled the central and southern regions of Vietnam. 

In 1802 the last scion of the original Nguyen family — Gia Long — 
managed to gain the throne and unite all Vietnam under a single 
government administration and set of laws. In this enlightened era, 
there were schools in most villages, and foreign trade was encouraged 
and carried on through settlements of Dutch, Portuguese, French, 
and Japanese merchants in several towns. 

The French Take Over 

The French assumed control over the province of Cochin China 
in 1863. Before another decade has passed, the other two regions, 
Tonkin and Annam, also went under French rule. From that time 
until World War II, the country was part of French Indochina. 
The other two parts were Cambodia and Laos. 

After the fall of France in 1940, the Japanese occupied French 
Indochina. This occupation continued until 1945 when Japan 
granted Vietnam independence under a puppet emperor, Bao Dai. 

Meanwhile, by the time of the Japanese occupation, a group of 
expatriate, anti-French Vietnamese had formed in South China. 
One of these was Ho Chi Minh, a dedicated Communist, who entered 
Hanoi secretly in 1944. A year later, after Japan’s surrender to the 
Allies, Ho’s forces became the “Vietnam Liberation Army” and the 


shadow government of Emperor Bao Dai set up by Japan soon fell 
before the Communist leader’s well-organized onslaught. The em- 
peror abdicated, handing over his powers to Ho Chi Minh. At the 
same time, a “Provisional Executive Committee for South Viet- 
nam,” with seven Communists among its nine members, took con- 
trol of Saigon. 

Communists Show Their Hand 

Like many other colonial people, the Vietnamese wanted national 
independence above all. That is why many followed Ho Chi Minh 
and the Communist -directed Viet Minh, which pretended to be a 
non-Communist league for the country’s independence. 

When the French tried to regain a foothold in Vietnam in 1946, 
Viet Minh forces attacked them on a wide front, supported by many 
people who had only one purpose — national independence. So began 
the costly 8-year Indochina war that ended with the division of 
Vietnam at a Geneva conference table in July 1954. The southern 
part of the country struck out as a free nation — the Republic of 
Vietnam — under the leadership of Ngo dinh Diem, with Saigon as 
its capital. The northern part of the country became the Commu- 
nist-ruled Democratic Republic of Vietnam, with Hanoi as its 


A referendum in October 1955 offered the people of South Vietnam 
a choice between Emperor Bao Dai as chief of a state patterned on 
the old regime, and Ngo dinh Diem as chief of state of a republic. 


The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the latter, and the Repub- 
lic was proclaimed with Ngo dinh Diem as President. 

The Republic of Vietnam has been recognized diplomatically by 
most of the free nations of the world. While not a member of the 
United Nations, it is represented on several specialized agencies of 
that body and regularly sends observers to U. N. meetings and to 
meetings of the Colombo Plan nations. It also participated officially 
in the Bandung Conference in 1955. Though not a member of the 
Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, South Vietnam is regarded as 
within the treaty area and its security is a direct concern of SEATO. 

A constitutional assembly was elected in March 1956, and on 
July 7 a national constitution was adopted, making a good start 
toward showing what a determined nation can accomplish under 
dedicated leadership. 

The war-ravaged country faced staggering problems — a ruined 
economy, an influx of 900,000 refugees from Communist North 
Vietnam, the rivalries of political factions, and the anti-Government 
activities of the Viet Cong, a subversive network the North Viet- 
namese had left in the South after the country was divided. 

But through their own efforts, and with economic aid from the 
United States and other free-world countries, the South Vietnamese 
people began to prosper. By 1960, South Vietnam had made signi- 
ficant progress in agriculture, industry, health, education, and other 
fields. Rice and rubber production exceeded prewar production, the 
transportation system was largely rebuilt, and new industries were 
started. The number of primary school teachers tripled and school 
enrollment soared. Three thousand medical aid stations and matern- 
ity clinics were established throughout the country. 


Timber is trimmed in Vietnamese sawmill. 
A village elder samples water from a new well. 

Schoolbooks capture the attention of young students. 

Increasing Viet Cong Activity 

South Vietnam’s progress stood in marked contrast to develop- 
ment in North Vietnam. The Communists in Hanoi had expected 
South Vietnam to collapse and fall into their hands like ripe fruit. 
Frustrated by its growing prosperity, the Communists in 1959 
launched the Viet Cong guerrillas on an intensified campaign of 
guerrilla warfare and terrorist activities in the South. The follow- 
ing year, the Communist (Lao Dong) Party of North Vietnam or- 
ganized the “National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam,” 
which it tried to disguise as a purely South Vietnamese nationalist 


Arms and men especially trained for sabotage and guerrilla war- 
fare were infiltrated into the South. In the beginning, the cadres 
infiltrated were largely drawn from the 90,000 South Vietnamese 
who had gone North in 1954. Supported and directed by Hanoi, 
and actively encouraged with arms and aid from Communist China, 
the Viet Cong guerrillas attacked hamlets and villages; torturing, 
killing, or kidnapping the inhabitants who refused to cooperate with 
them. The Viet Cong murdered thousands of local officials, teach- 
ers, and health workers. Crowded trains and buses were bombed, 
roads destroyed, bridges and schools burned. 

Help for a Sister Republic 

After the Geneva accords of 1954 divided Vietnam, a U.S. Military 
Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) became the only outside 
source of military aid for South Vietnam. Its mission was to im- 
prove the military effectiveness of the South Vietnamese Armed 

But as the Viet Cong stepped up their terrorist and guerrilla 
campaign, it became clear that more help was needed, and President 
Diem appealed to the United States for increased assistance. Begin- 
ning in 1962, when the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam 
(MACV) was established, the United States has greatly increased 
both its military and economic aid and is prepared to do all that is 
necessary to help South Vietnam preserve its independence. We 
are not alone in giving this assistance. Thirty-six other free-world 
countries are also providing economic or military aid or both to 
South Vietnam, or have agreed to do so. And despite the increased 
tempo of the war, the economic aid programs in food, health, edu- 
cation, housing, and industry continue. 


The Government 

From 1956 to 1963 South Vietnam was governed under a consti- 
tution modeled in many respects on those of the United States and 
the Philippines, which provided for a strong executive, a unicameral 
National Assembly, and a judicial system. The Diem government, 
however, became increasingly personal and dictatorial. Opposition 
was suppressed; there were charges of injustice and corruption 
against members of his family, particularly his brother, Ngo dinh 
Nhu; and President Diem lost in part the confidence and loyalty 
of the people. In 1963 serious political conflicts arose between the 
Government and the Buddhists, the largest single religious group in 
the country. Other non-Communist oppositionists to Diem made 
common cause with the Buddhists, and, on 1 November, 1963, the 
Diem government was overthrown by a military coup d'etat. Diem 
and his brother, Ngo dinh Nhu, who exercised great power in the 
regime, were killed. 

Since then there has been considerable political instability in South 
Vietnam and a series of changes of government. In this connection, 
two things should be kept in mind: one, that the Vietnamese had 
little preparation for self-government and are struggling to develop 
unity and stability during a very dangerous internal security crisis 
caused by Communist aggression; and two, that not one of the 
groups competing for political power is in favor of accommodation 
with the Viet Cong. 

Political activity has been confined chiefly to the cities and has 
had little impact on the great bulk of the population living in the 
countryside. These people — the villagers, the rice farmers, the rub- 
ber plantation workers — have had little feeling of identification with 
either the Viet Cong or the central Government. The Vietnamese 


Viet Cong hideout is captured by Vietnamese troops 


farmer lives in a small world limited by the bamboo hedge around 
his village. His loyalties are to his family, his land, and his spiritual 
world. The Viet Cong have neutralized the people’s support for the 
Government in some rural areas by a combination of terror and 
political action. One of the continuing programs of the central Gov- 
ernment has been to provide better security and living conditions 
to convince the villagers that the Government the Communists seek 
to destroy is their Government. 

Provinces and Districts 

South Vietnam has 43 mainland provinces and five chartered 
cities — Saigon, Hu6, Dalat, Da Nang, and Vung Tau (Cap St. 
Jacques). Within the provinces are districts made up of a number 
of villages called lang in central Vietnam and xa in the south. The 
villages are made up of hamlets (ap), which may be from a hundred 
yards to several miles apart. To at least eight of every 10 Viet- 
namese, “the Government” is the administrative group that runs 
his village. 


The new Rural Life Hamlet program, part of the Rural Recon- 
struction or Pacification program, is designed to provide physical 
safety, effective local government, and a better life for the rural 
population. A typical hamlet has rudimentary fortifications and 
warning systems. The inhabitants are trained and armed to pro- 
tect themselves against Viet Cong attack until reinforcements 
arrive. As security improves, Government services in such fields 
as health, education, and agriculture are provided, in many cases 
with U. S. assistance. Local officials, who are trained and paid 
by the Government and administer the hamlet, are usually chosen 
in hamlet elections. The program is designed to provide the im- 
proved security and economic conditions that encourage loyalty 
to the central Government. 


Vietnamese is decorated for defending his village 


The Armed Forces 

The Vietnamese have a long history of successful fighting against 
stronger and better equipped forces. They drove the Chinese from 
their land several times, repelled three Mongol invasions, and re- 
duced the once powerful Champa Kingdom to nothing but a mem- 
ory. One of their most famous generals, Tran Hung Dao, wrote a 
manual on military doctrine which has been a national classic on 
warfare for 600 years. 

Under proper leadership, today’s Vietnamese soldier is a tough 
brave fighting man who has stood up to 20 years of violence. He is 
worthy of your respect. Since 1960, some 30,000 members of the 
South Vietnamese armed forces have been killed and over 51,000 
wounded in battle for their country. In proportion to population, 
these losses are 10 times as great as those suffered by Americans in 
the Korean war, and larger than our losses in World War II. 

Today the military power of the Republic of Vietnam is made up 
of three elements: the Regular Armed Forces (RVNAF), the Re- 
gional Force (formerly known as the Civil Guard), and the Popular 
Force (the former Self-Defense Corps), as well as elements of other 
militia or paramilitary organizations. 

The Regular Armed Forces consist of the Army, Navy, Air 
Force, and Marine Corps, with the Army by far the largest. Of the 
other elements, often referred to as ‘‘paramilitary,” the Regional 
Force most nearly approaches the Army in strength and capabili- 
ties. Its units, which do not exceed battalion strength, are usually 
stationed in the province in which organized. 

The Popular Force is a regularly constituted militia composed 


MontaAnard “ Strike Force ” »vas trained by Americans 

A Vietnamese Navy Junk Force patrol. 

largely of villagers who live and serve near their homes. Together 
with the Regional Force, they bear the brunt of the day-to-day 
fighting against the Viet Cong. In many ways these and other para- 
military groups could be compared to American minutemen during 
the Revolutionary War. They are being supplied with up-to-date 
weapons and field radios. The radios have filled a big communica- 
tions gap. With them, help can be summoned fast or news of an 
impending attack flashed to the critical area. 

The Army. The South Vietnamese Regular Army and paramili- 
tary forces number more than 500,000 men. All physically fit young 
men of 20 and 21 are normally required to perform two years of 
military service. This requirement is altered to include additional 

age groups as the military situation dictates. 

The Navy. Operating forces of the Navy consist of three major 
commands: the Sea Forces; the River Forces operating in the 

Mekong Delta Region; and the Marine Corps Group. A part of 
the shore establishment is the Junk Force organized as a paramili- 
tary force and an inshore patrol force. It is manned in part by 
naval personnel, with Vietnamese fishermen providing the bulk of 
the force. Though small, the Navy is developing into a highly effi- 
cient organization. 

The Air Force. About 12,000 officers and men — all volunteers — 
staff the Air Force. The force consists of transport, fighter, heli- 
copter, and liaison squadrons, with necessary supporting units. 



Armor protects Vietnamese Navy supply convoy 


Your Legal Status 

All official United States personnel are accorded diplomatic im- 
munity by special concession of the Government of the Republic 
of Vietnam. Since military personnel are subject to U. S. military 
law, any local incident involving our military people is reported to 
the Commander, U. S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam 
(COMUSMACV) for appropriate disciplinary action. This arrange- 
ment has worked out very well. Vietnamese Government officials 
have expressed their satisfaction with the prompt and fair way such 
incidents as have occurred have been handled. 


You will find many areas of common interest with the Vietna- 
mese: their regard for their families . . . their historic struggle for 
national independence . . . their wish to allow people individual free- 
dom within the framework of laws made for the good of all. 

But there are many differences between their culture and customs 
and our own and you must be prepared to deal with them in a way 
that will make you an acceptable friend of the Vietnamese. 

Some of the differences are small things, like the way a Vietna- 
mese seems to be waving goodbye when he is actually beckoning 
you to come toward him. You should not use typical American 
motions to beckon Vietnamese as they use such gestures only for 
animals. Also do not slap a man on the back unless you know him 
very well. 


More important differences are attitudes toward older people, 
manual labor, display of emotion, and time. For instance, the aver- 
age Vietnamese is less compulsive about time than the American, 
so you should not consider it a personal affront if people arrive late 
for an appointment or even if they don’t arrive at all. 

Moderation should be practiced in all things and the moral code 
of the people you are among strictly observed. Knowing that trouble 
breeds in situations where a person has one drink too many or for- 
gets to show the utmost respect and courtesy toward women, you 
should make it a special point to avoid getting even close to the 
fringes of this sort of trouble. Never interfere in an argument among 
Vietnamese. A good general rule is to avoid all incidents that do 
not concern you directly. 

Family Loyal+y 

The Vietnamese are justifiably proud of their culture and national 
identity, but their primary social outlook revolves around their 
family and village. These claim first allegiance. Members of a 
family, for instance, have an absolute obligation — to be violated 
only at the risk of serious dishonor — to care for their relatives and 
to prevent any of them from being in want. Even after a girl mar- 
ries, her love and respect for her parents traditionally continue to 
overshadow her love and respect for her husband. 

The traditional family unit includes living and dead members 
and members not yet born. On festival days and in family cere- 
monies the ancestors are revered, and at all times there is thought 
of the grandsons and great-grandsons yet to be born who will carry 


on the family name. A family without male heirs is assumed to 
have disappeared. 

The importance of family is evident in the many terms used to 
denote family relationships. In addition to the usual ones like 
father, mother, brother, sister, the Vietnamese have terms to show 
relative age, the father’s side of the family versus the mother’s, and 
other niceties of relationship. In keeping with the lesser importance 
of younger people, there is only one term for a younger brother or 
sister. Either is em. But anh means elder brother and chi, elder 

Older people with their accumulation of a lifetime of experience 
are considered the wisest members of society and therefore are ac- 
corded the highest standing. If you are invited to a Vietnamese 
home for a meal, be sure to let the older people begin eating before 
you do. Be solicitous about helping them to things on the table. 
Older Vietnamese, by the way, will usually not shake hands but 
will greet you by joining their hands in front of them and inclining 
their heads very slightly. Responding with the same gesture will 
show them that you know and appreciate this respectful custom. 

Woman's Place Is at Home 

Since the purpose of marriage is to continue the family line, the 
parents believe that the selection of a proper wife for their son is 
their personal responsibility, a duty they owe both to their ancestors 
and to their son and his future children. Usually with the help of 
a “go-between,” they search for a girl who is skillful at housework 
and who will be a good mother to many children. Beauty is not as 
desirable as good character. In fact, beauty is sometimes considered 


Young t aces of Vietnam 

a disadvantage because the Vietnamese believe that fate seldom is 
kind to beautiful women. 

The traditional position of women is totally subordinate to men 
and their social life is limited. At the same time, wives often exer- 
cise a great deal of influence in the family, particularly in connect 
tion with financial affairs and, of course, in selecting marriage 
partners for their sons and daughters. 

People of upper-class families, as well as people living in villages 
removed from big city and Western influences, continue to follow 
time-honored traditions and customs. Among others, the customs 
have been considerably modified. Women are assuming a new and 
important position in the life of the nation, and young men and 


women are breaking away from tradition to choose their own mar- 
riage partners. 

The Professional Man 

The Vietnamese have always felt that a deep division exists be- 
tween manual and “intellectual” labor. Traditionally Vietnamese 
who have achieved positions with the Government as a result of 
long and patient study, or who have become doctors, teachers, and 
so on, avoid using their hands for tasks they feel they have gradu- 
ated beyond. It would be unusual, for example, to see such a per- 
son washing his car, helping his wife clear the table, or working in 
the garden. 

Another thing, a Vietnamese might avoid looking a superior in 
the eye when talking to him. This does not mean the man cannot 
be trusted. It means he is being polite by not “staring” at a person 
of greater standing. 

At your first meeting with a Vietnamese he might ask: “How 
much money do you make?” This is a natural question in the se- 
quence of “Are you married?” and “How many children do you 
have?” It simply expresses polite interest. If you feel uncomfort- 
able about replying, you can avoid a direct answer by stating that 
you are paid in American dollars and don’t know what the equiva- 
lent would be in Vietnamese currency. Your indirect reply lets the 
other person know you do not want to answer and have told him 
so politely. The matter is thus dropped without embarrassing 

If you want to ask a favor, you should remember that hinting 


and indirection are preferable to making an outright request. Also 
avoid launching too quickly into a new topic or disagreeing too 
vehemently. Exercise moderation in your conversation. At a first 
meeting, it is often best to stay on safe topics like families or the 

Politeness and Restraint 

Even among the most sophisticated Vietnamese, manners have 
not become lax or social customs unrestrained. Manners are con- 
ditioned by age-old religious teachings and are deeply ingrained in 
the life of the people. 

Public display of emotion is almost always considered in bad 
taste. Raising the voice, shouting, or gesturing wildly are most 
impolite. Tied in with the view that marriage is primarily for con- 
tinuance of the family line is a feeling that display of affection 
should be confined to the privacy of the home — and even there, not 
practiced before guests. 

The Vietnamese regard men and women who walk arm-in-arm 
as vulgar. But you may occasionally see two boys or men walking 
down the street hand-in-hand. This is an ordinary mark of friend- 
ship common to many Asian and other countries. 

If you follow the general practices of good manners and courtesy, 
and observe those that are particularly important to your Vietna- 
mese hosts, you will be a welcome guest in Vietnam. This is vital 
to your mission there. You will fulfill your duty as a responsible 
representative of the United States best by remembering at all times 
that you are in a land where dignity, restraint, and politeness are 
highly regarded. 


Town and Country 

The architecture of homes in the cities and towns shows French 
and other Western influence, and decoration and furnishings also 
have a decidedly Western touch. But in the rural districts and 
mountain villages you will find thatched roofs, mud walls, pounded 
dirt floors, and little furniture. Some of the more pretentious rural 
houses have tile roofs, wooden walls, and floors of tile or flat brick 
squares set in mortar. 

* A feature of most homes is the family altar containing a tablet 
bearing the names of the family’s ancestors going back at least to 
the great-grandfather. Veneration for the family’s ancestors is per- 
petuated through the eldest son who is expected to succeed his 
father in caring for the altar. The altar may take up as much as 
one-sixth of the entire floor space of the house, excluding the kitchen. 
The kitchen is customarily built adjoining but separate from the 
living quarters. 

Another interesting feature of a Vietnamese home is the plank 
bed. Often made of costly wood with inlaid mother-of-pearl, the 
bed may be as large as eight by five feet. Except for a mosquito 
net there is generally no bedding. The Vietnamese feel that in their 
hot climate it is more comfortable to sleep without bedding. 

Village Life 

The Vietnamese village, lang and xa, is an administrative unit 
rather like a county in the United States. It is made up of a number 
of scattered hamlets or ap, each set against a backdrop of bamboo 
thickets and groves of areca (betel nut) and coconut palms. Located 
at the village seat of government are a school, athletic or parade 


Army officer jokes with school children. 

field, and a meeting hall. Some villages also have a dispensary and 
a maternity building containing a couple of beds and staffed by a 
trained midwife. 

An “information” booth displays Government notices. Saigon 
newspapers may be kept here for public reference. The dinh, or 
village communal temple, houses a decree naming the village guard- 
ian spirit. 


People of four mountain tribes live in this village 

There is also a village market. On market day, which is once or 
twice a week, people file out of the hamlets to follow the narrow 
paths or rice paddy banks to the marketplace. They come to sell, 
to buy, or just to gossip. Some balance baskets of fresh fruits and 
vegetables on their heads. 

A shopper can buy live chickens or duck eggs, conical hats to 
ward off the sun and plastic coats to keep away the rain, or Chinese 
herbs and Western aspirin, and even a brightly colored scarf in 
which to carry purchases. 


A popular feature at the market is the man with a portable stove- 
and-bakery suspended from the ends of a bamboo pole balanced 
across his shoulders. From this ingenious double-duty device the 
merchant offers noodle soup on one side, papaya and red peppers 
on the other. 

What's for Supper? 

The average Vietnamese consumes less than two-thirds the calo- 
ries the average American puts away every day. Starvation is ex- 
tremely rare, but the basically vegetarian diet sometimes lacks 
proteins, vitamins, and minerals. 

Most middle-class families have ample meals consisting of four 
types of foods: one salted, one fried or roasted, a vegetable soup, 
and rice. The soup {earth) is an important part of the meal and 
may contain bits of fish or meat along with the vegetables. 

Rice is the staple food and its preparation is a grave responsi- 
bility for the women of the household. All girls are supposed to 
learn to cook as an essential part of their education. During the 
Moon Festival they prepare their best dishes so that the eligible 
bachelors may see how well they can cook — particularly banh 
trurtg thu — the special Moon Festival Cakes. 

Fruits and Vegetables 

The fruits and vegetables of Vietnam include many kinds familiar 
to you and others you may not know much about. Bananas, apples, 
pears, plums, oranges are among the familiar fruits; pomegranates 
and papayas, among the more exotic. Here you find the jujube — 
a sort of thorn tree with a fruit that flavors some of our candies — 
and the litchi, which is a fruit known in its dried form as “litchi 


Vietnamese food delights both eye and palate 


nut.” Among the vegetables are common ones like potatoes, tur- 
nips, carrots, onions, and beans; eggplant disguised under the name 
aubergine, and water bindweed, an herb that comes from the same 
family as our morning-glory flower. 

Avoid eating raw vegetables or unpeeled fruit and drinking 
water that is not boiled or otherwise purified. 

The Fish Is Good 

When the meal extends beyond vegetable and rice dishes, fish is 
generally served. More than 300 edible fish come from the sea and 
the inland waterways of Vietnam. Sole, mackerel, anchovy, tuna, 
squid, sardine, crab, and lobster are only a few. The tiny shrimp 
and oysters from the China Sea are particularly luscious, as are 
soups prepared from turtles caught on the beaches and in coastal 

The Vietnamese excel at preparing fish. Sometimes the fish is 
sauteed with onions, mushrooms, and vermicelli; or it may be slowly 
cooked with tomatoes, salted bamboo shoots, carrots, and leeks. 
Carp are often fried with celery. Eels make a banquet dish when 
sauteed in a sauce made of sugar, vinegar, rice flour, and sour-and- 
sweet soybean sauce. Another specialty is eel wrapped in aromatic 
leaves and grilled over charcoal, or boiled with green bananas, veg- 
etables, saffron, and onions. 

A fermented sauce made of fish and salt — nuoc mam — is almost 
as much a staple of diet as rice. It is served almost everywhere and 
with almost every meal. Many Westerners develop quite a taste 
for it. 


Meat Dishes 

Although Buddhism condemns the killing of living things, ani- 
mals and fowl are killed for food. Pork is more commonly found on 
the average family’s menu than beef. It is roasted or sauteed with 
various vegetables and herbs. Lean pork baked in a crisp loaf with 
various seasonings, including cinnamon, is a tasty dish known as 

A popular beef dish is made by cutting raw beef in thin slices and 
pouring boiling water over it, then promptly eating it with a dres- 
sing of soybean sauce and ginger. “Beef in seven dishes’’ is much 
appreciated by visitors as well as local people. One of these is a 
beef soup; in another, beef is cut into chunks or sliced, or else ground 
and formed in little balls or patties. Each has its own delicious sauce. 

Hens are prepared to a gourmet’s taste by stuffing with aromatic 
vegetables, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and basted with coco- 
nut milk while roasting; or, after boning, by filling with meat, chest- 
nuts, mushrooms, and onions and basting with honey while baking. 

Tea at All Times 

Tea is the principal Vietnamese beverage in the morning, after- 
noon, and evening — for any occasion or no occasion at all. At 
mealtime it is usually served after the meal rather than with it. 
Chinese tea is much appreciated, particularly when flavored with 
lotus or jasmine, but it is too expensive for most people. They use 
the local teas: dried ( che-kho)> roasted ( che-man)> or dried flower- 
buds, ( che-nu ). Tea, incidentally, is an acceptable gift under 

almost any circumstance. 


When coffee is served, it is generally offered with milk as c af& au 
lait in the morning, or black as cafe noir for an after-dinner demi- 

In towns and cities you can generally get cognac, whiskey, French 
wines, and champagne. 

Alcoholic beverages produced locally are principally beer and 
ruou nep, made from fermented glutinous rice. 

Festivals and Lunar Calendar 

Outside of the larger cities and the relatively few Christian areas, 
the routine of work goes on day after day without a pause on the 
seventh. From dawn to dark the father tills the fields or casts his 
nets for fish; the women and all but the very young children help 
in the paddies or tend to household duties. Only when there is a 
national holiday or religious festival does the daily routine of “work, 
eat, sleep’’ come to a temporary halt. 

The following poem expresses the ritual of Vietnamese life and 
festivals : 

January, celebrate the New Year at home; 

February, gambling; March, local festivals; 

April, cook bean pudding; 

Celebrate the feast of Doan Ngo at the return of May; 

June, buy longans and sell wild cherries; 

At the mid- July full moon, pardon the wandering spirits; 

August, celebrate the lantern festival; 

At the return of September, sell persimmons with the others; 


Tet Nguyen Dan (New Year ) is observed quietly by some. 


Tet Nguyen Dan is celebrated boisterously by others. 


October, buy paddy (unhulled rice) and sell kapok; 

November and December, work is finished. 

All of the festivals mentioned in the poem are based on the lunar 
calendar. This causes the dates to vary from year to year by our 
calendar, like our Easter. 

The Vietnamese lunar calendar, like the Chinese, begins with the 
year 2637 B.C. It has 12 months of 29 or 30 days each, totaling 
355 days. Every third year or so an extra month is slipped in be- 
tween the third and fourth months to reconcile the lunar calendar 
with the solar calendar. An advantage of the lunar calendar (at 
least to moon-minded people) is that you can count on a full moon 
on the 15th day of each month. 

Instead of centuries of 100 years each, the Vietnamese calendar 
is divided into 60-year periods. Each year in one of these periods 
is designated by one of five elements and one of 12 animals: Wood, 
fire, earth, metal, water; and rat, buffalo, tiger, cat, dragon, snake, 
horse, goat, monkey, chicken, dog, and pig. The year 1966 which 
is the Vietnamese year 4603 — is designated by the combination of 
wood and horse, but you will commonly hear it referred to as “Year 
of the Horse,” just as 1965 was called the “Year of the Snake.” 

Annual Festivals 

The chief Vietnamese festivals by the lunar calendar are : 

• The New Year, Tet Nguyen Dan , 1st through 7th day of 
1st month; 

• The Summer Solstice, Doan Ngo, 5th day of the 5th month; 


• Wandering Souls, Trung Nguyen, 15th day of the 7th 
month; also celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st and 10th 

• Mid-Autumn, Trung Thu, 15th day of the 8th month; 

• Tran Hung Dao, 20th day of the 8th month; and 

• Le Loi, 22nd of the 8th month. ' 

The Tet Nguyen Dan, or New Year, often called “Tet,” is the 
big event of the year. It marks the beginning of spring, and by the 
solar calendar usually falls toward the end of January or in early 
February. All work usually stops for the first three days, and most 
shops are closed. 

Vietnamese tradition attaches great significance to the first visitor 
of the New Year. He is thought to influence the happiness or well- 
being of the family during the entire year. If a rich man or one 
with a lot of children or one of high social position is the first to 
cross the threshold, the family’s fortunes will be correspondingly 
affected. A happy man with a good name like Phuoc (happiness) is 
preferable to a sad man or one named Cho (dog). In fact, some 
families go out of their way to invite a propitious first guest, and 
to discourage all others from entering before him. 

Eating the New Year’s cake, banh chung, is another means of 
insuring prosperity. The cake consists of a combination of sticky 
rice, pork, and soybeans wrapped in green bamboo or rush leaves, 
and then boiled. 

At the time of the New Year, new clothes are in order and old 
debts are settled. 

The festival begins with veneration at the family shrine and pub- 


lie worship with people carrying lighted candles and incense. There 
are presents for the children, feasts, and gay, noisy public celebra- 
tions. Firecrackers are forbidden during wartime, but there is always 
the sound of gongs and cymbals and the traditional unicorn dance. 
The unicorn brings luck, especially to those who hang money from 
their windows for the unicorn to eat! 

Religion Can Be Plural 

Instead of saying one religion is right and all others wrong, the 
Vietnamese are more apt to take the position that one is right and 
another is not wrong either. For instance, a man who makes offer- 
ings in a Buddhist temple probably also pays reverence to the an- 
cestral altar in his own home in keeping with the teachings of Con- 
fucius. You may even find Christ, Confucius, Mohammed, and 
Buddha all honored in the same temple. 

Consequently, it is not too meaningful to say that a certain per- 
centage of the Vietnamese are Buddhists and another percent some- 
thing else. The percentages may be made up of individuals who 
are both Buddhists and something else. 

Religion has been a significant factor in the Vietnam way of life 
throughout history. The present culture and customs of these 
proud and sensitive people are strongly conditioned by their reli- 
gious beliefs. For example, feeling that the universe and man’s 
place in it are essentially preordained and unchanging, they place 
high value on stoicism, patience, courage, and resiliency in the face 
of adversity. 



if . ^j 


Sir 4 

Buddhist rites are ages old. 

Procession before Saigon’s Catholic Cathedral. 



To get along in Vietnam you must have some understanding of 
these traditional beliefs. If, for instance, you did not know that 
the parts of the human body are believed to possess varying degrees 
of worthiness — starting with the head — you would not see why pat- 
ting a person on the head might be considered a gross insult. Or 
why it would be insulting for you to sit with your legs crossed and 
pointed toward some individual. Either of these actions could cause 
you to be regarded in a poor light by Vietnamese who follow the 
traditional ways. 

Religion is an important element in the political views most Viet- 
namese have, and religious leaders in recent years have played an 
increasingly active role in Vietnamese politics. 

Confucianism. Confucianism, a philosophy brought to Vietnam 
centuries ago by the Chinese, not only has been a major religion for 
centuries, but also has contributed immensely to the development 
of the cultural, moral, and political life of the country. It estab- 
lishes a code of relations between people, the most important being 
the relation between sovereign and subject, father and son, wife and 
husband, younger to older people, friend to friend. Teaching that 
disorders in a group spring from improper conduct on the part of 
its individual members, achievement of harmony is held to be the 
first duty of every Confucianist. 

When he dies, the Confucianist is revered as an ancestor who is 
joined forever to nature. His children honor and preserve his mem- 
ory in solemn ancestor rites. At the family shrine containing the 
ancestral tablets, the head of each family respectfully reports to his 
ancestors all important family events and seeks their advice. 


Buddhism. Confucianism goes hand in hand in many Vietnamese 
homes with Buddhism, a religion first taught in India some 26 cen- 
turies ago by Prince Gautama, also known as the Gautama Buddha. 
Buddhism was introduced into Vietnam about the 2nd century B.C. 
by Chinese and Hindu monks. In Buddhism the individual finds a 
larger meaning to life by establishing identity with eternity past, 
present, future — through cycles of reincarnation. In the hope of 
eventual nirvana, that is, oneness with the universe, he finds con- 
solation in times of bereavement and special joy in times of wed- 
dings and births. 

The Greater Vehicle ( Mahayana ) form has more followers than 
the Lesser Vehicle ( Therevada ) in Vietnam, as also in China, 
Korea, and Japan. This branch regards the Gautama Buddha as 
only one of many Buddhas (Enlightened Ones) who arc manifesta- 
tions of the fundamental divine power of the universe. They believe 
that, theoretically, any person may become a Buddha, though those 
who attain Buddhahood are rare. Saints who earnestly strive for 
such perfection are known as bodhisattvas. Both Buddhas and 
bodhisattvas are recognized and venerated in Mahayana temples. 

Lesser Vehicle believers follow the teachings of Gautama and re- 
gard him as the only Buddha. In the southern delta provinces of 
Vietnam, particularly in Vinh Binh, Ba Xuyen, and An Giang where 
there are large groups of ethnic Cambodians, you will often see the 
saffron-robed monks of the Lesser Vehicle. This branch is also found 
in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos — in other words, 
in those countries that had a dominant Indian rather than a domi- 
nant Chinese historical influence. 


Pagodas, originally established as Buddhist monasteries and mon- 
astic study centers, now often serve also as social welfare institu- 
tions, and may include schools, orphanages, medical dispensaries, 
public libraries, and youth clubs. 

Although the number of devout, practicing Buddhists in South 
Vietnam is relatively small, the great majority of the people have 
some sense of identification with Buddhism. In recent years, lead- 
ing Buddhist priests ( bonzes ) have become increasingly active in 
political affairs and influential in the rise and fall of South Vietna- 
mese governments. 

Christianity. Christianity reached Vietnam in the 16th and 17th 
centuries, mainly through the efforts of Roman Catholic Spanish 
and Portuguese missionaries. As a result of persistent missionary 
efforts — frequently in the face of persecution by emperors who feared 
Western political and economic control — approximately 10 percent 
of the population of the Republic of Vietnam are Catholics. This is 
the highest proportion of Catholics in any Asian country except 
the Philippines. 

American Protestant missions have been in Vietnam since World 
War I. At first their activities were mainly limited to the mountain 
tribes of the high plateaus. With the gradual rise of American assist- 
ance and influence, there has been an increase in Protestant activity 
in the lowlands. Baptist, Mennonite, Christian and Missionary Al- 
liance, and Seventh Day Adventist missions now exist in several 
cities, and some Vietnamese Protestant students are being sent to 
the United States for advanced help in theological training. 

New Religions. In addition to the religions and philosophies brought 
to Vietnam from other countries, new ones were developed there. 


This elaborate Cao Dai temple is near Tay Ninh. 


Chief among these were the Cao Dai and the Hoa Hao. 

Cao Dai is a blend of the three great oriental philosophies — Con- 
fucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism — set in an organizational struc- 
ture based on that of the Roman Catholic Church. The head of the 
church, the “Superior,” fills a position similar to that of the Pope. 

At one time Cao Dai claimed a following of 3 million. Now the 
religion is less widely practiced, but you may still see Cao Dai 
temples throughout Vietnam. The cathedral near the city of Tay 
Ninh, about 55 miles northwest of Saigon, is the largest and best 
known. Built between 1933 and 1941, it is located not far from the 
revered Nui Ba Den, Mountain of the Black Virgin. The mountain 
is a holy place of the Buddhist faith, one to which pilgrimages have 
long been made. 

Hoa Hao is an offshoot of Buddhism that came into being in An 
Giang province in southwest Vietnam in 1919. Its founder was a 
young man named Huynh Phu So, and he gave the new religion the 
name of his village of birth. He became famous as a teacher and 
miracle healer, preaching that temples, rituals, and priests were not 
necessary to the worship of God. This greatly appealed to the poor 
people and peasants. Some 20 years after its founding, Hoa Hao 
had a million and a half or more followers, though Viet Minh Com- 
munists murdered the founder in 1947 and no leader of comparable 
stature appeared to take his place. 

Education and Culture 

Regardless of the changes the Vietnamese have passed through 

from the rule of their own emperors to rule by French governors to 
the present republican government— one factor that has remained 
constant is their inherent reverence for learning. 


Under the Confucian social system, the scholar stood at the head 
of the occupational hierarchy. The scholar received the highest 
economic, social, and political rewards. The nation was governed 
at all levels of administration by officials who were chosen on the 
basis of education alone. The aristocracy of learning wiim the only 
aristocracy of any continuing importance in old Vietnam. Educa 
tion, especially in Chinese philosophy and history, was not only 
prized for its own sake but was the main road to wealth, power, and 
social standing. 

With the coming of the French, the formal educational system 
changed considerably. Beginning in the 19th century, the French 
encouraged the Vietnamese to write their own language in the 
Latin alphabet. 

Public Schools. The present school system retains sublt antially 
the form of the French school system. In addition, the Government 
is attempting to raise the literacy rate among older people through 
evening classes. 

Primary schools have a 5-year curriculum and the first three 
grades are compulsory for all children. 

Secondary schools have two divisions with a 4-year course in the 
first, and a 3-year course in the second. The 4-year course is divided 
into classical and modern sections. In addition to basic subjects, 
those choosing the classical course take Vietnamese literature and 
Chinese characters, while pupils in the modern section take history, 
French, and English. 

The 3-year course continues the general pattern of the first, but 
gives students the option of continuing their language studies or of 


substituting programs of natural science or of mathematics and 

The goal of secondary education is to pass the stiff baccalaureate 
examinations required for admission to the 5-year university pro- 
gram or to the advanced technical schools. 

Private Schools, Universities. In addition to public schools at the 

primary and secondary levels, there are both religious and secular 
private schools. These schools follow the public-school curriculum 
and are regulated and subsidized by the Department of Education. 

In addition, there are a number of normal schools which train 
schoolteachers, an industrial technical school, other specialized gov- 
ernmental technical schools, and a school of applied arts, where the 
traditional fine arts of Vietnam are taught. These include gold- 
smithing, lacquer work, cabinetwork, and pottery making. 

The National University of Vietnam in Saigon is the most impor- 
tant institution of higher education. There also are universities at 
Dalat and Hue, and several technical schools of university rank, 
including the National Institute of Administration in Saigon. 

Higher education in foreign countries is greatly sought after by 
advanced students. The Vietnamese Government grants passports 
for study abroad to students wanting to study courses not offered 
in Vietnam, and at least 1,000 to 1,500 Vietnamese students will 
be abroad in any year. 

Youth Movements such as Boy Scouts, sports clubs, and sectarian 
organizations of the Christian and Buddhist youth have had a strong 
revival. A Cabinet-level agency under the Government is responsi- 
ble for encouraging and supporting youth activities. 


Since 1963 high school and university students have become in- 
creasingly interested and active in political and social matters. Their 
community services have included massive participation in relief 
operations after the disastrous floods of 1964 as well as many smaller 
assistance projects. Efforts are now underway to get Vietnamese 
youth even more involved in the vital task of preserving national 

A Rich Culture 

The admiration and honor accorded scholars by the Vietnamese 
extends to writers, especially poets, and the literature of the nation 
is rich and sensitive. 

The painting, sculpture, and other arts of Vietnam are vigorous 
and imaginative, with lively motifs of dragons, tigers, elephants, 
unicorns, and horses. The fabled phoenix and other birds, the tor 
toise, bamboo, and exotic flowers also figure in the designs. Artists 
create most intricate designs, though the tools and materials they 
use are often very simple. 

The country is known for its woodcarving, mother-of-pearl inlay, 
lacquer and metal work. You can see the artistry of skilled metal 
smiths in the beautiful bronze decorations in pagodas, temples, pal 
aces, and public buildings, and in statues, perfume and incense burn 
ers, candlesticks and so on. Tin, pewter, and copper are also used 
to create art objects of long-enduring beauty and usefulness. 

Embroidery and mat weaving are crafts widely practiced. A 
grateful people even created a temple at Hai Thicn in honor of 
Pham Don Le, the Mandarin who established mat weaving in Viet- 
nam. Traditional mat decorations include the symbol for longevity, 


Dragons guard war memorial entrance in Saigon. 

and often the design includes bats or butterflies in the corners of 
the rug to signify happiness. 

Theater and Music 

Should you get a chance to go to the theater you may enjoy the 
cai luong, or modern form, more than the hat boi, or classical 
style. The classical theater uses colorful costuming and scenery, 
and the plays are very tragic and dramatic. The modern theater, 


which came into being around 1920 cuts to a minimum scenery, 
costumes, and stage effects, and the stories are less heroic and more 

The music of Vietnam will be most strange to your curs unt il you 
get used to it. A scale of five notes and two semi-notes is used and 
the classical instruments are various stringed instruments, drums, 
and gongs. In the classical theater the acting is stressed wit )i laments 
from the strings and vigorous noise from drums and gongs. 


Tribal people outnumber the ethnic Vietnamese at places on or 
near Vietnam’s high plateau. They formerly lived along the coast 
of north and central Vietnam. About the time of Christ's birth, 
powerful nations like Funan and Champa forced them out of thru 
coastal villages into the mountains. They are estimated to mini 
ber almost 800,000. 

You may hear these people called “ montagnard ” or "mo/ M , The 
first is a French word meaning “mountaineer.” The second is a 
Vietnamese term meaning “savage” or “barbarian,” which in undn 
standably resented by them. Two terms much more acceptable to 
them are dong bao thuong, meaning “highland compatriot,” and 
nugoi thuong du, meaning “highland people.” A good ICnglish 
word is “tribespeople,” since it describes their way of life without 
uncomplimentary meanings. 

Appearance and Language 

Tribespeople of different villages quite often arc unable to under- 
stand each other’s language and also have marked physical dilTei 


ences. Depending on the tribe, their skin color varies from extremely 
dark to slightly bronzed white. Some are tall and well-built, others 
short and slight. Their hair may be frizzy or straight; and their 
clothing may cover more of their bodies than your uniform does of 
yours, or consist of nothing more than a few beads and a g-string. 

The more than a score of different tribes can be grouped in two 
broad classifications based on language. Those in the larger group 
speak languages of the Mon-khmer linguistic family related to 
present-day Cambodian. Some of these are Baru, Katu, Cua, 
Sedang, Hrey, Bahnar, Koho, Steing, Muong, and Ma. 

Those in the smaller group speak languages of the Malayo-Poly- 
nesian linguistic family that are related to Cham. The principal 
tribes speaking languages of this family are Rhade, Jarai, and 

But even within a language group, people of one village some- 
times cannot understand those of another. If 10 to 20 miles of 
matted jungle trail separate the villages, there is not much communi- 
cation between them and language differences develop. 

Languages of both these two linguistic families Mon-Khmer and 
Malayo-Polynesian, differ greatly from Vietnamese in at least one 
major respect — they have no differing tones, while Vietnamese does. 
Since tones are usually difficult for Americans, tribal languages 
should be easier for you to learn than Vietnamese. 

Also, none of these people ever had a written language of their 
own until French and American missionaries began devising them, 
mostly in this century. Comparatively few tribespeople know how 
to read, so if you want to study their language you do so by ear 
not by book. 


Rhade girls carry water home in gourd* 


The Spirit World 

Despite many differences, some basic characteristics are shared 
by almost all of the tribespeople. 

First of all, superstitions and fear play a heavy role in their 
lives. Although Christian missionary efforts have made some changes, 
the great majority of tribespeople are animists or spirit believers. 
Followers of this ancient Southeast Asian religion believe that prac- 
tically everything has its own spirit — a rock, for example, or a tree. 
Most of the spirits are unfriendly, and tribespeople take elaborate 
precautions to avoid antagonizing them. 

Casting one’s shadow on a particular rock, for instance, may offend 
the spirit of the rock and cause it to take vengeance on the careless 
human. On the advice of a witch doctor, a tribesman will sacrifice 
a pig or even a water buffalo to appease an angry spirit. On a single 
day one Koho village near the town of Di Linh in Lam Dong Pro- 
vince sacrificed 42 water buffalo to make peace with the spirits. 

Wealth in Jars 

Every tribal home has its gongs and jars, chiefly used for cere- 
monies and festivals. The gongs, as you guessed, are for making 
noise; the jars hold various household supplies and are used to brew 
an alcoholic holiday drink for community celebrations, like the 
arrival of strangers, a buffalo sacrifice, or any other likely reason. 

The drink is brewed by putting the branch of a special tree or 
bush in the jar, then alcohol, and then filling the jar to the brim 
with water from a nearby creek. You then sit with the male villagers 


in a circle around the jar. Each person, in turn, beginning with tin* 
village chief, takes a generous swig from the jar through a bent 
bamboo straw that is often over six feet long (everybody using tin- 
same straw, of course). As each person drinks, a designated vlllagei 
uses a dipper to transfer water from a nearby pot to the jar, being 
careful to refill the jar to the brim each time. Thus, the drinking 
may continue indefinitely, yet the jar always remains full. 

After the first round, you can stop drinking without giving ofTounr 
The drink is not strong, and should affect you only if taken in giral 
quantity. These drinking celebrations often accompany animal 

Tribal Hospitality 

Besides almost universal superstition and fear of unfriendly npii it *, 
another characteristic most tribes have in common is open banded 
hospitality to strangers. If you arrive in a Ma village, for Inst am «*. 
you will probably be offered sleeping space in the chief's house an 
well as food. 

Ma houses, like those of practically all tribespeople except the 
/eh and Katu, are single-story dwellings raised several feet from 
ground level by pillars or stilts. Raising the house provides a shaded 
refuge from the sun underneath the house and discourages night 
entrance by wild animals such as tigers. The roofs are low and have 
center peaks. 

The Ma build their houses as long as the hillside will permit. 
Some, though only about six feet wide, are over 120 feet long and 
accommodate several families. Each family has a separate entrance 
— consisting of stairway, platform, and doorway along one of the 


two long sides of the structure. Each family also has its own hearth. 
There are no partitions and you can see from one end to the other. 

If you plan to visit tribespeople in any region you will receive an 
even warmer reception if you bring gifts of medicine or salt. Local 
aspirin is quite inexpensive and salt is extremely cheap, but tribes- 
people prize both items highly because they have almost no money. 

Don’t be too handy with your camera, especially if it is the kind 
that produces a print on the spot. Before trying to take any pictures, 
explain about the camera and if there is some reservation on the 
part of the subject — don’t shoot! Many Vietnamese, like many of 
us, would be flattered to have their pictures taken and given to them 
right away, but tribesmen, because of their spirit beliefs, may be- 
come quite upset. To them you have captured their spirit and im- 
prisoned it in the picture. One well-meaning missionary who handed 
a tribesman such a print was arrested by the whole village and only 
set free after he had agreed to pay for a sacrificial pig in atonement. 


For a small country, South Vietnam has a great variety of attrac- 
tions. Saigon offers fascinating shops and markets; Hu6, great sight- 
seeing possibilities. There are many beautiful white sand beaches 
along the country’s thousand miles of coastline. Some are always 
accessible. Access to others depends on the military situation. 

Saigon — Cholon 

Saigon is the capital and largest city of Vietnam. With its pre- 
dominantly Chinese city of Cholon (meaning “big market”), it lies 


National Assembly meets in white building (left) 

about 50 miles inland from the South China Sea on the navigable 
Saigon River. It is a busy commercial port and has all of the hust Ip 
and bustle of a port city plus a lot of color and confusion uniquely 
its own. 

The water traffic on the river includes ocean-going vessels as well 
as assorted small boats, junks, and fishing craft. On the city ■treels 
the traffic is even more varied. There are motor scooters, pedicabs, 
bicycles, automobiles— and pedestrians in Asian or Western dress 
or something in between. From the sidelines, the relaxed patrons 
of the many sidewalk cafes sip their tea or beer and watch the world 
go by. 

Saigon has museums where you can see relics of past civilizations, 


including the Cham. Or you may wander along Duong Tu Do 
(Freedom Street), the fashionable shopping center, theater, and 
cafe area. At one end of Tu Do stands the post office and Catholic 
Cathedral. Not far from the Cathedral is the executive mansion, 
named Independence Palace. 

A place you cannot miss is the Saigon Central Market. Here, 
under a single roof of a clean-lined modern building, you can buy 
an amazing variety of things: fish, brassware, vegetables, a length 
of cloth, and a hundred other necessities or luxury items. 

The excellent restaurants of both Saigon and Cholon will tempt 
you. Try the specialties of the house but remember to be wary of 
raw vegetables or unpeeled fruits and never eat raw pork. Excellent 
French cooking vies with interesting Vietnamese dishes and in 
Cholon you will find Chinese delicacies such as sharkfin soup and 
Szechwan duck. 


Hue, the former royal capital, is located at the other end of the 
country near the North Vietnam border. 

Be sure to examine the remains of the citadel built on the model 
of Peking. A moat surrounds Thanh Noi, the Interior City, and 
another encircles Dai Noi, the Great Interior, which once housed 
the emperor and his retinue. Nearly 100 buildings were clustered 
in this section until the Communists blew them up in 1945 in an 
attempt to sever Vietnam from its past. 

The Government has restored a few of the buildings. You can 
see the Emperor’s Audience Hall with its gilt throne and red, dragon- 


The former imperial Palace in Hud 

decorated pillars. A children’s classical ballet troop, supported by 
the Government as a carryover from the royal ballet, Ht ill peiiurntN 
on festival days along the steps in front of the Audience Hull. 

In front of the royal citadel, sampans drift on the Perfume Rivet 
as it makes its slow way to the nearby sea. On the night of a full 
moon, you can rent one of these sampans with its interior of costly 
wood and inlaid mother-of-pearl, hire a singer and four musicians, 
and float along the river to the music of the singers’ wails mingled 


with the twang of the instruments’ strings. Small market-boats ply 
the river and will offer you bottled drinks, exotic fruits, and lotus 
buds freshly plucked from the imperial moat. 

Hue’s oldest building is a Buddhist temple, erected on the banks 
of the Perfume River by Nguyen Hoang in 1601 to commemorate a 
vision he had in which an old woman predicted that he would be 
the founder of a flourishing dynasty. He was 76 at the time, but the 
prediction came true. Later, in 1844, a seven-story tower, the Phuoc 
Duyen, was built in front of the temple. This is Hue’s most fam- 
ous landmark. 

The rolling hills south of the city contain thousands of tombs, 
including six royal ones. The latter are large park-like enclosures 
behind massive gates. Some have ponds, delicate trees, and even 
little temples. Many of the emperors began constructing their 
tombs long before death, and at least two of them, Minh Mang and 
Tu Due, used them as a sort of summer palace for relaxing, contem- 
plating nature, and writing poetry. Best preserved is the gracious 
enclosure built by Minh Mang, with its many frangipani and flower- 
ing almond trees, and curving, lotus-clogged ponds. 

Da Nang 

Da Nang is a coastal town 60 miles south of Hue, separated from 
Hue by a finger of the mountains that juts into the sea. The road 
between the two cities, which is not always secure for travel, crosses 
a narrow pass where traffic flows only one way at a time. If you 
forget to time your trip with control of this traffic, you may find 
yourself caught in an hour or more delay. 


Nha Trang 

On down the coast lies Nha Trang, about 198 statute miles north 
east of Saigon. Here you can enjoy all sorts of water sports swim 
ming, skin-diving, water-skiing — or make a trip to one of thr oil 
shore islands in the bay. You also can visit the aquarium and thr 
Institute of Oceanography at Cau-Da, or see the old Chum town, 
Thao Ba, now used as a Buddhist Temple. 


Dalat is a small, exquisite mountain resort surrounded by pirn- 
covered hills in central Vietnam. Situated at a 5, 000-foot elevation, 
it has cool nights throughout the year. But in the rainy srason it 's 
wet! By August the rains are falling almost continuously. 1 1< »< iU o. 
leather goods, food, and clothing mildew unless stored in a “hot 
closet” which has a light bulb burning constantly. 

The town is the home of the National Military Academy, the 
Armed Forces Command and General Staff College, and thr Geo 
graphic Institute of Vietnam. 

It is the center of a small sightseeing area of mountains, lakrs, 
waterfalls, and has a lovely artificial lake of its own. Craft work of 
the mountain tribespeople is on sale in the local markets. You ran 
buy their baskets, jewelry, pipes, handwoven materials, and native 
musical instruments; even fresh orchids. As a matter of fart, Dalut 
is an orchid center. Some 1,500 varieties are grown in the spacious 
greenhouses of the town’s many flower fanciers. 


Vung Tau (Cap St. Jacques) 

This interesting little town on the South China Sea is now officially 
called Vung Tau but is also still known by its former French name 
of Cap St. Jacques. It is about 50 miles from Saigon and its beaches 
are excellent. 


You who help the Vietnamese maintain their freedom will have 
many fine things to remember about the people and the country. 
You will have the satisfaction of sharing the experience of a staunch 
and dedicated nation in a most critical period of its history. In a 
broader sense, you will be helping to block the spread of communism 
through Southeast Asia. 

Your exemplary conduct — making a good compromise between 
the more informal ways of our country and the traditional ones of 
Vietnam — will do a lot toward bridging the gap between East and 
West. This is essential, as the success of your mission requires that 
you build up a good relationship with the South Vietnamese people. 
This can be done only through day-by-day association with them 
on terms of mutual confidence and respect, both while doing your 
military job and in your off-duty hours. You’ll find opportunity 
for recreation, but the Vietnamese will also appreciate a helping 
hand on local civic projects, such as improving sanitary, medical, 
or transportation facilities, and building a playground or school. 

You will find that life in South Vietnam can be frustrating, tense, 
and at times full of danger. But you will also find that it brings 
great rewards. 




Vietnam is 13 hours ahead of our Eastern Standard time. For 
rxample, when it is 12 noon, EST, in New York or Washington, 
D. C., it is one a.m. the next day in Vietnam. Also, wlirn it In 
midnight in New York or Washington, it is one p.m. the same day 
in Vietnam. 


South Vietnam’s unit of money is the piaster or cfonjJ. Notes me 
issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and MM) 
piasters or dong. 

U.S. military and civilian personnel serving in Vietnam air paid 
in Military Payment Certificates (MPC’s), issued in the name d» 
nominations as U.S. currency. The MPC’s, also called “scrip", * an 
only be used in official facilities, such as exchanges, commisNarlcN, 
clubs, and messes. 

Piasters may be purchased at official exchange points at the ndr 
of 118 piasters for 1 dollar. 

Weights and Measures 

The international metric system of weights and measures is used 
throughout Vietnam. Gasoline and other liquids arc sold by the 
liter (1.0567 liquid quarts); cloth by the meter (39 inches); food and 
other weighed items by the kilogram (2.2 pounds). Distance is 
measured by the kilometer (0.62 mile); speed in kilometers per hour 
(25 k.p.h. equals 15 m.p.h.). 


Distance and Speed Conversion 

Kilometers 1 2 3 4 5 10 25 50 100 500 

Miles 6 1.2 1.8 2.5 3 6 15 31 62 311 

Gasoline Conversion 

Liters 3.8 7.6 11 .4 15.1 18.9 37.9 56.8 76.8 

Gallons 1 2 3 4 4 10 15 20 


Armed Forces and Education, Aggression From the North: The 
Record of North Vietnam's Campaign to Conquer South 
Vietnam (DoD GEN-14). 

Evidence at Vung Ro Bay (DoD GEN-16). 

The Struggle in South Vietnam: * Liberation' or Conquest? 
(DoD GEN-19). 

Vietnam: Four Steps to Peace (DoD GEN-18). 

Vietnam: The Struggle for Freedom (DoD GEN-8). 

Why Vietnam? (Unnumbered). 

Browne, Malcolm W., The New Face of War. Bobbs-Merrill Co., 
Inc., Indianapolis, 1965. 

Buttinger, Joseph, The Smaller Dragon: A Political History of 
Vietnam . Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 1958. 

Carver, Jr., George A., The Real Revolution in South Vietnam. 
Foreign Affairs, April, 1965. 

Halberstam, David, The Making of a Quagmire. Random House, 
Inc., New York, 1965. 


Huong Van Chi, From Colonialism to Communism: A Case 
History of North Vietnam. Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 

Kishel, Wesley R., ed., Problems of Freedom: South Vietnam 
Since Independence. Free Press of Glencoe, New York, 1961. 

Lansdale, Edward G., Vietnam: Do We Understand Revolu 
tion? Foreign Affairs, October, 1964. 

Tregaskis, Richard, Vietnam Diary. Holt, Rinehart flr, Winston, 
Inc., New York, 1963. 



Some 27,000,000 people speak Vietnamese as their first 
language. The great majority of them live in Viet-Nam. 
Others are in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, France, and 
New Caledonia. 

Vietnamese was first written in Chinese characters, 
then in the late thirteenth century, in a modified form 
called chu nom. In the early 1600’s, Portuguese and 
Italian Jesuit missionaries devised a system of writing 
Vietnamese with the Latin alphabet. Chinese characters 
and chu nom continued in use through the early part of 
this century but were officially replaced in 1920 by Lu tin 
script. This is called quoc ngu and consists of 12 vowel 
and 27 consonant forms. 

The simple vowels are: a, e, i, o, u, and y. Modifications 
of these vowels add six more to the alphabet. The modifi 
cations are indicated by diacritical marks, like this: a, A, 
6, 6, o , tit. These diacritical marks are part of the letter 
and have nothing to do with word accent or tone quality. 

The vowels are pronounced: 
a — "ah” (long) as in pod 
a — "ah” (short) as in pot 
a— "uh” as in but 


e — "aa” as in pat 
6 — "eh” as in pet 
i/y— "ee” as in Pete 
o "aw” as in law 
6 — "owe” as in low 
o— "uh” as in bud 
u — "oo” as in coo 
u — "u” as in "ugh” 

Of the consonants, only the "d” has two forms. "D” 
with a line or bar drawn through it (© or ff) is pronounced 
like the English d. The one without a line or bar is 
pronounced like our "z” in the north, and like a "y” in 
central and southern Viet-Nam. The president's name, 
properly written, has both "d’s”— Ngo dinh Diem. The 
first is pronounced like our "d”; the second like a "z” or 
a "y” depending on which part of the country the 
speaker comes from. 

Speaking Vietnamese 

There is considerable difference between the way 
Vietnamese is spoken in various parts of the country. If 
you learn the southern accent, you may be able to under- 
stand people from the north but not necessarily those 


from central Viet-Nam. Vietnamese in the central provin- 
ces of Thanh Hoa and Nghe An have an accent that even 
their fellow countrymen from other districts find difficult 
to understand. Hue, too, has its own geographically 
limited but highly specialized accent. 

The sounds of many Vietnamese letters and letter 
combinations are familiar to English speaking people but 
a few others are quite difficult to learn, especially the 
initial "ng” and the vowel "u.” To learn to make the 
"ng” sound, repeat our word "sing” several times, 
gradually dropping first the "s” and then the "si.” To 
learn to pronounce the Vietnamese "u,” say "you” and 
then broaden the lips as though about to smile, but 
without moving the position of the tongue. 

An advantage of Vietnamese is that once you have 
learned the sound indicated by a given combination of 
letters, you know it wherever it appears. 

Words beginning with "t” and "th” are pronounced 
alike except that there is an aspirated (or h) sound after 
the "t” in the "th.” The same is true of words spelled 
with an initial "c” or "k” as compared with the aspirated 
"ch” or "kh.” The importance of knowing how to make 
this small but tricky distinction is plain when you 


understand how greatly it changes the meaning of a 

word. Tam means three: tham, greedy. Cam is orange- 
k ham, to suffer. * 

„ An S and x ” are both Pronounced like the "s” in 
soap’’ in northern dialect. But with a southern accent 
the s becomes "sh” as in "shot.” 

"Nh” is pronounced like the "ny” in "banyan.” 

Tones Change Meaning 

Vietnamese is a monosyllabic language. Each syllable 
expresses a distinct idea and therefore is a word in itself 
Often two or more syllables are joined to form new words 
as m place names like Sai-gon and Ha-noi. 

Vietnamese is also tonal. In other words, the tone or 
evel of your voice changes the meaning of a word. The 
word ma, for instance, has many different meanings 
depending on how you say it, and symbols are used to 
show the differences. 

Word Symbol Tone Meaning 

ma none level or middle ghost; to rub 

“? ' hi ^ h mother; cheek 

^ low but; that; which 

ma waving or rising clever; tomb 


ma ~ interrupted house; appearance 

ma heavy rice seedling 

The northern dialect has these six tones. The southern 
combines the waving and interrupted tones by pro 
nouncing them in the same way and thus has only live 
tones. With one exception, tone symbols are placed above 
the principal vowel of the syllable. The heavy symbol (.) 
is placed under the principal vowel. 

Here's how to use the different tones when talking: 

Level tone is a monotone in the middle of the normal 
speaking range. 

The high or high-rising tone starts above level tone 
and rises sharply. 

The low-falling tone starts off in fairly low voice and 
falls rather slowly to the bottom of the normal range. 

The waving or mid-rising tone starts at about level 
tone, dips very slightly, and then rises slowly. 

The interrupted, or high-broken tone starts a bit above 
normal range, dips a little and then rises abruptly. I hiring 
the rise the throat is constricted to cause a light, brief 
interruption of sound. 

The heavy or low-dipped tone starts below the middle 
of the normal speaking range and very abruptly falls. 


At this point an additional sound is produced by forcing 
air through the almost closed vocal cords. 

Learn by Listening 

You can’t learn a foreign language, especially a tonal 
one like Vietnamese, from books alone. You learn it by 
listening to the way people around you talk and by 
speaking it yourself. Get a Vietnamese friend or someone 
else who knows the language well to give you lessons. 
Getting a good working command of Vietnamese is not 
easy, but the effort will reward you with a sense of 
accomplishment and a new feeling of confidence. Too, 
your ability to speak their language will win the respect 
of the Vietnamese people with whom you are associated. 


The word "you” varies in Vietnamese depending on 
the speaker and the person spoken to. The form used 
throughout this language guide is ong , but it means 
"you” only when addressing a man. Depending on the 
person you are addressing, you should replace ong with 
one of the following forms: 

married woman ba 






unmarried girl 

child (either boy or girl) ; 

girl friend; wife 
close male friend; 

male servant 
female servant 

Greetings and Courtesy 

Hello; Goodbye; 

Good morning; 

Good afternoon; 


How are you? 

I’m fine. 

I’m glad to meet you. 

Please come in and sit 

Thank you. 

Don’t mention it; 

It’s nothing at all. 

Please speak a little more 

Please say it again. 

Chao ong. 

Ong manh gioi ch^? 

Toi manh nhu thurfng. 

Toi han hanh du$c gap 6ng. 

Moi ong vao ngdi choi. 

Cam on ong. 

Khong co gi. 

Xin loi ong, toi khong hieu. 
Xin ong noi lai. 


Do you speak English? 6ng n6i tilng Anh Ttddc 


No 1 don,t ‘ Toi noi khfing Sd^c. 

Can you understand me? 6ng hilu toi duVc kh6ng? 
Yes > 1 can - Hilu nude. 

Questions and Answers 

Most of the following phrases represent highly 
idiomatic southern Vietnamese. You can compile your 
own list of nouns by asking the first question and getting 
the names of things you will most often need to know. 

Cai nay la cai gi? 

Cai nay la trai xoai. 

Cai nao? 

Cai nao cung <3uoc. 

Ai <36? 

Toi Tfay. 

Chi co mot mJnh tdi. 

Nghia la gi? 

Khong co nghia gi hit. 

Ong ay la nguoi the nao? 

6ng ay la nguli t6t. 

What is this? 

It’s a mango. 

Which one? 

Either one. 

Who's there? 

It’s me. 

It's only me. 

What does it mean? 

It has no meaning at all. 
What kind of person is he? 
He's a good man. 


How do you work it? 

How do you do it? 

Any way. 

This way. 

What else? 

All finished; nothing else. 
Who else? 

You too. 

What for? 

Isn't that so? 

That’s right. 

So I’ve heard. 


I think so. 

I guess so. 

What's the matter? 
Nothing at all. 

I changed my mind. 

I want to ask you a favor. 
Dinner’s ready. 

You called the wrong 

What’s new? 

Lam the nao? 

The nao cung ctuoc. 

The nay. 

Con gi nua? 

Het roi. 

Con ai nua? 

Cung co ong nua. 

De lam gi? 

Co phai khong ong? 


T6i co nghe noi nhu vay . 
Co le. 

Toi nghi nhu vay. 

Toi doan nhu the. 
Chuyen gi vay? 

Khong co chuyen gi het. 
Toi <3a doi y roi. 

Toi muon phien ong. 
Com don roi. 

Ong goi lam so. 

Co gi la khong? 


Nothing’s new? 

Who told you? 

You yourself did. 

Miscellaneous Phrases 

Let’s go. 

Go away! 

Hurry up!, 

I’m just looking. 

That’s fine; 

That’s enough; 

I’ll take it; 


Quantity and Degree 

How much is it? 

Not much. 

Only five dong . 

Five dong is too expensive. 
I’ll give you three dong 
for it. 

They sell all kinds of fruit 

Khong co gi la. 
Ai noi voi ong? 
Chinh ong noi. 

•Di thi di. 
i)i di. 

Mau len. 

Toi xem choi. 

-Buoc roi. 

Bao nhieu tien? 

Khong bao nhieu. 

Nam dong thoi. 

Nam dong mat lam ong a. 

Toi tra ba dong thoi. 

>> / / . < 

O day co ban du thu trai cay. 


I don’t like to eat fruit 
at all. 


What time is it? 

I t’s four o’clock. 

When did that happen? 
Half a month ago. 
August of last year. 
When are you going? 

In a while. 

In a short while. 


Right now. 

Which time? 

Last time. 

The first time. 

Next time. 

Do you go there often? 
From time to time. 
Every afternoon. 
Whenever I can. 

How long ago? 

Toi dau co thich an trai 
cay ca. 

May gio roi ong? 

Ban gio roi. 

Viec ay xay ra hoi nao? 
Cach day nua thang. 

Trong thang tarn nam rdi. 
Chung nao ong di? 

Mot lau nua. 

* j 

Khong bao lau nua. 

' j 

It ngay nua. 


Bay gio day. 

Lan nao? 

Lan chot. 

Lan dau tien. 

\ 'j 

Lan toi. 

Ong di den do thuong khfing? 
Thinh thoang thoi. 

Moi buoi chieu. 

Luc nao co dip. 

T)uoc bao lau roi? 


A long time ago. 

T)a lau roi. 

A while ago. 

Hoi nay. 

Too long a time. 

Lau qua. 

The other day. 

Horn no. 


Where do you live? 

Ong o dau? 

I live in Da Nang. 

Toi o f)a Nang. 

Where did you just come 

A Iv \ 

Ong o dau toi? 

I came from Saigon. 

Toi o Saigon ra. 

Where do you come from? 

Ong la nguoi o dau? 

I come from America. 

Toi la ngi£?i My. 

Where are you going? 

Ong di dau? 

I’m going to the movies. 

Toi di coi hat bong. 

I’m going home. 

T6i ve nha. 

Where have you been? 

Ong di dau ve? 

I’m on my way back from 
the market. 

Toi di cho ve. 

Where is it? 

O dau? 



O tren lau. 


O du<& nha. 

Inside the house. 

V % 

O trong nha. 


C? ngoai. 

0 dang nay. 

Over this way. 

Over that way. 

0 ding do. 

Way over there. 

J . \ 

O dang kia kia. 



dai tuong^ 

lieutenant general 

trung tuong 

brigadier general or 

major general 

thieu tuong 


dai ta 

lieutenant colonel 

trung ta 


thieu ta 


dai uy 

1st lieutenant 

trung uy 

2nd lieutenant 

f / 

thieu uy 


nguoi lmh 


thuy thu 


hnh khong quan 

Days of the Week 




Thu ba 


Thu ti^ 


Thu n&m 


Thu sau 


Thu bay 


Chu nhat 


hom nay 


ngay mai 


hom gua 

























hai muoi 


hai muoi lam 


mot tram 



5 April 1966 

official Department of Defense publication is for the use of personnel 
in the military Services. 

By the Order of the Secretaries of the Army, the Navy, and 
the Air Force: 

General, United States 

° fficial: Chief of Staff. 


Major General, United 
States Army, 

The Adjutant General. 

B. J. SEMMES, Jr., 

Vice Admiral, United 
States Navy, 

Chief of Naval Personnel. 

j. p. McConnell, 

General U.S. Air Force, 

official : Chief of Staff. 

R. J. PUGH, 

Colonel, USAF, 

Director of Administrative 

H. W. BUSE, Jr., 

Lt. General, U. S. Marine 

Deputy Chief of Staff 
(Plans and Programs ). 


I ><*»ribution: 


Active Army: 

Instls (5) 

CINFO, ATTN: Command Information Div. (50) 
NG: None. 

USAR: None. 

Air Force: S (as AFPs 34 series) 




Do be courteous, respectful, and friendly; 

Don't be overly familiar with the Vietnamese. 

Do learn and respect Vietnamese customs; 

Don't forget you are the foreigner. 

Do be patient with the Vietnamese attitude toward time; 
Don't expect absolute punctuality. 

Do appreciate what the South Vietnamese have endured; 
Don't give the impression the U. S. is running the war. 

Do learn some useful Vietnamese phrases; 

Don't expect all Vietnamese to understand English. 

Do be helpful when you can; 

Don't insist on the Vietnamese doing things your way. 

Do learn what the South Vietnamese have to teach; 

Don t think Americans know everything. 













flHSr Cl ASS